As previously mentioned, some of the hotels we’ve visited are beginning to open. When we arrived at Tok we noticed a Holland America Tours Explorer Motorcoach in the lot.
This morning we chatted with the driver and he let me get a few shots of the interior. These coaches are relatively new to Alaska. They extend the Signature of Excellence to the road. Each coach was designed specially for Holland America Tours to transport our guests in total comfort and safety. The coach has 10 less seats than a normal coach, making each row quite roomy and comfortable. The seats are leather with a HAL logo inlay.
The coach features drop-down LCD monitors and individual headphone jacks for entertainment. This isn’t your ordinary bus!
After checking out the bus we found ourselves dining once again at the Grumpy Grizz Café across from Westmark Tok. We’re practically regulars there now!
The ride to Dawson City will take us on what they call the “Top of the World Highway.” It is so named because it snakes through the mountains on its way to Canada’s Yukon Territory. This is the first time we’ll be heading into the mountains and over to the other side. We are among the first to travel the road. In fact we had to change our schedule because the road had not opened until yesterday! It’s a seasonal road because of the snow at the high altitudes, but also because over 100 miles of this road is unpaved.
On our way to Dawson we come through a unique town — Chicken, Alaska. As the story goes, the original settlers — gold miners — wanted to name their new town after the Ptarmigan. The ptarmigan is a bird that was and is common around the camp and Alaska for that matter. The birds often served as a prime source of food for the camp. The only problem was that the miners couldn’t spell ptarmigan, so Chicken, Alaska, it would be.
Chicken, Alaska, boasts a wintertime population of around seven people and it balloons to 12 to 15 people in the summer. There is a post office and the mail arrives by plane twice every week, on Wednesday and Friday — when the weather cooperates. There is a phone — just one. Clearly, this is a hot-spot for tourists. So if your find yourself in “Beautiful Downtown Chicken,” (a three store strip next to a four-hole outhouse) be sure to stop and have a freshly baked brownie or piece of pie, a cup of homemade chili or simply browse the gift shop. What’s the third store, you ask? It’s a bar.
I bought a few post cards and we drove up to the post office (on the far side of town — 2/10 of a mile away) to send them.
The Chicken post office.
As I filled them out on the porch of the post office, the postmaster came out to chat. She informs me not to rush … after all I have until Friday when the plane comes to pick up the mail.
We head out and shortly find ourselves at the Northernmost United States Border Station. We check in at the Canadian side and head to Dawson.
Anthony, a crew purser, is on a special assignment for Westmark Hotels, a Holland America Line company. Questions about Alaska, the Yukon or Westmark? E-mail Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org.